Stories by Author

Stewart Wolpin


Stewart Wolpin has been writing about consumer electronics for more than 30 years and has attended more than 40 CESs (there used to be a summer show in Chicago). He is a judge for the Consumer Electronics Association Hall of Fame and writes the bios of the electees. He also has written on small stakes poker ("The Rules of Neighborhood Poker") and baseball ("Bums No More: The Championship Season of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers").

If your parents ever yelled at you to get out of the house to get some exercise (or if your own conscience bugs you about it) but you didn't want to stop playing Call of Duty or Halo, Hasbro has a compromise: Lazer Tag, which mixes first shooting video game play with the real world. Update at the bottom of this post.
I'm in this picture, but even I don't recognize me. It's because we're all dressed up in bunny suits: light cloth or paper coveralls and booties and hoods and face masks you wear in a clean room where microchips or sensitive equipment is manufactured. If you don't wear a bunny suit every day, you feel (and look) silly. Over the last 25 years or so, I've donned many a bunny suit during visits to numerous factories in Japan and South Korea and witnessed a sea of young, bunny-suited or uniformed factory workers toiling in stultifyingly sterile factories repetitively assembling cellphones, PCs, TVs, VCRs, DVD players, washing machines, microwave ovens, refrigerators, air conditioners, etc. It's how our gadgets are made, like it or not. So the recent "exposés" about working conditions in Chinese factories making iPads, iPhones and iPods perhaps shock but don't surprise me, and they shouldn't surprise you.
Over the New Year's weekend, I was reminded of an old comedy record called The First Family, a hilarious and enormously popular spoof of the Kennedy administration from the early 1960s, pulled from circulation after JFK's assassination in 1963. A friend in my age demographic had never heard of it. So I attached an MP3 file of one of the tracks I had made from my CD copy and emailed it to him. In the wake of all the SOPA brouhaha, I got to thinking about this exchange. I wasn't selling the track or album to him; I didn't send him the entire album; I didn't post it anywhere where someone else might listen to it for nothing (though someone has, but I'm not telling you where). But I felt dirty nonetheless. And suddenly I understood the urge that led lawmakers to create the Frankenstein monster that is SOPA and its evil spawn PIPA.
Admit it. You leave all your electronics gear on standby. Your PC is in sleep, but it's on all the time. Likewise your HDTV, your A/V receiver, your cable box. I know because mine are all on standby, and yet here at the world's tech mecca is a solution that would have allowed me to kill my power strips and what have you all the way across the country.